Amona residents: Government not keeping terms of agreement
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Amona residents: Government not keeping terms of agreement

Letter to PM says construction of new homes has yet to start, warns that residents will not allow eviction of outpost if deal not honored

Housing Minister Yoav Gallant visits the Jewish settlement of Amona in the West Bank, on December 18, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Housing Minister Yoav Gallant visits the Jewish settlement of Amona in the West Bank, on December 18, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Residents of the Amona outpost in the West Bank said Friday the government has failed to implement a compromise deal signed 20 days ago, as the February court-ordered deadline to dismantle the hilltop community loomed.

On December 18, 2016, residents of Amona reached a deal with the government under which 24 of the outpost’s 41 families would be moved to an adjacent plot of land on the same hill while the rest would move to the nearby Ofra settlement. The government would also explore permanent housing solutions on the adjacent plot.

Days later the High Court of Justice extended the upcoming December 25 demolition deadline to February 8, 2017, warning that this was the “last, final extension,” and the state will have to carry out the court’s orders by that date “whether an arrangement [with Amona residents for an alternative location] is reached or not.”

Before approving the extension, the court sought and received a signed pledge by residents that they would leave the site peacefully in February, issuing a statement clarifying that they “agree and commit unanimously to a peaceful eviction without conflict or resistance.”

In a letter sent Friday morning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the residents said the government had not yet begun work on a new site for them, had reneged on allowing them use of a plot, and acted improperly in appointing a project manager. They also questioned whether Netanyahu had ever intended to keep his promises.

A tiny outpost of some 41 families on a hillside alongside the Ofra settlement, northeast of Ramallah, Amona was built in the 1990s on what the court has repeatedly ruled was privately owned Palestinian land. A 15-year legal battle culminated in a December 2014 ruling by the High Court that the outpost be evacuated and demolished. At the time, the court gave the state and residents 24 months to prepare alternate arrangements.

Residents of the West Bank settlements of Ofra and Amona hold a demonstration demanding the approval of a bill legalizing West Bank outposts, near the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Residents of the West Bank settlements of Ofra and Amona hold a demonstration demanding the approval of a bill legalizing West Bank outposts, near the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, November 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Deals must be honored,” they wrote. “We are warning you — 32 days before the date set by the High Court — to carry out your responsibility.”

According to the letter, residents were informed that work will begin no earlier than January 18, only 20 days before they will have to leave their homes on a court order.

Jewish men pray early in the morning on the hill overlooking Ofra in the Jewish outpost of Amona in the West Bank, on December 18, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90
Jewish men pray early in the morning on the hill overlooking Ofra in the Jewish outpost of Amona in the West Bank, on December 18, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90

Residents were also told on Thursday night by Prime Minister Office official Yoav Horowitz that the prevailing view is that the adjacent plot of land will not be used at all, as it was contested by a Palestinian landowner. Residents described this plot of land as the cornerstone of the entire agreement.

The letter also claims that the government breached the terms of the deal by appointing a project manager to oversee the evacuation without consulting with the residents, and questions whether the government ever intended to stick to the deal.

The residents threatened that they will not allow the government to tear them from their homes and leave them on the streets while ignoring their obligations to the agreement. They also asserted that the public will not accept a nationalistic right-wing government that allows for the demolition of an entire settlement.

Jewish residents of the unauthorized Israeli outpost of Amona, in the West Bank, seen walking on the streets of the outpost on November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish residents of the unauthorized Israeli outpost of Amona, in the West Bank, seen walking on the streets of the outpost on November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In its decision in late December, the justices noted the state’s efforts, “albeit with great tardiness” to reach a resolution to the issue and to “ensure peaceful evacuation, without violence or resistance on the day of the demolition.”

Authorities were hoping the compromise deal could prevent a repeat of the violence that followed the destruction of several permanent buildings in the outpost in 2006, when the court similarly ruled that buildings were built on private Palestinian land.

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